Author Topic: Need advice on new system  (Read 719 times)

Offline meistersmudge

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Need advice on new system
« on: August 29, 2010, 12:02:45 AM »
I recently moved away from my brewing partner (who owned the majority of our equipment) and I’ve been saving up to start building a home brewery. I won’t be able to afford a great system right away and am looking to build something that will be easy to upgrade as funds become more available.  I have been looking at different designs as well as reading up on the pros and cons of different materials/procedures.

I could use some advice on the following:

1.   I have two kegs that I will be converting and using for a hot liquor tank and boil kettle. Is it worth the time and money to convert another into a mash tun or should I just use a cooler?
2.   I do not have the proper tools to cut/drill through the kegs. Are there public facilities that would possess and allow me to use the necessary tools? Or are there any shops that might do the cutting for me for a fee of less than what the cost in tools would be?

Any help would be greatly appreciated. 

Offline majorvices

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Re: Need advice on new system
« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2010, 06:23:55 AM »
A welder will cut the tops off your kegs for 20 bucks or so. The cooler and braided stainless steel mash via Denny's batch sparge method is superior to mashing in a keg IMO, especially since it retains the heat so much better. Plus its cheap.

http://hbd.org/cascade/dennybrew/
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Offline bluesman

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Re: Need advice on new system
« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2010, 07:47:55 AM »
A welder will cut the tops off your kegs for 20 bucks or so. The cooler and braided stainless steel mash via Denny's batch sparge method is superior to mashing in a keg IMO, especially since it retains the heat so much better. Plus its cheap.

http://hbd.org/cascade/dennybrew/

+1

If you're in a bind for cash the cooler with a braid is an excellent choice.  There's a great article in the latest Zymurgy that talks about the cooler mash tun written by the one and only Denny Conn.  Check it out!
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Offline wingnut

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Re: Need advice on new system
« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2010, 08:03:44 AM »
The question of cooler mash tun or converted keg kind of comes down to what you want your final system to look like?

If you are happy with single and double infusion mashes, then a cooler is fine.  If you are going to be doing decoction mashes, cooler is fine.  HERMS...cooler works...  RIMS...maybe.

However, if you want a direct fire or RIMS system, the cooler may not be the best choice.  Obviously, direct fire to a cooler is a bad idea, and for a RIMS system, you may be able to install an electric heating element in the cooler to recirc past... however the plastic may warp and not be a decent long term solution. (I have not done this, but those are the theoretical arguments)

The benefits of the cooler are that it is insulated, which adds stability and consistency to mashes as it isolates the mash better from the outside air.  So a mash in December comes out the same as in July.  Coolers are relatively easy to convert, (some you just pop out the cooler spigot and screw in your own valve) and can even be used for it's original use if needed for a party.  I have been using the same cooler in my setup for five years, and it is holding up great.   I am able to do two step mashes, and if I plan well, I can even do three step mashes.  If I need to do more than three step mashes, I tend to do a "mini decoction" where I pull part of the mash out and boil it in a separate container and then add it back in to raise the temperature.  (For real decoctions, I boil for a lot longer!!)

I personally, do not see a big need to do RIMS or HERMS, other than they look very cool and have a lot of gadgets!  Essentially, I have chosen to keep my mash systems simple.... In my opinion, the fewer dials to play with, the better the opportunity for consistency.  RIMS and HERMS supposedly have more controlled steps, leading to more consistent batches... however, unless there is a PID control involved, the ramp rates tend to vary.  When doing infusion, I can dump the same temp water in and get the same results EVERY TIME. 

If you like stainless, you may wish to forego the cooler as well.  I know I have shiny metal envy when I visit my friends who have all kettle systems, but at the end of the day, more of my beer is gone then theirs... I wonder why?

In the end, both are great choices, and the only real decision is what style of mashing you want to do ultimately, and what fits your price tag.

Have fun building your system!
-- Wingnut - Cheers!

Offline gordonstrong

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Re: Need advice on new system
« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2010, 08:30:08 AM »
I think the cooler vs. keg argument for a mash tun is settled by two questions: what kind of mash techniques do you want to use, and how good are you at hitting your target mash temperatures?

It all comes down to whether you want to be able to direct-fire your mash tun or not. You could do this because you want to do a step mash without changing the grist-to-water ratio, or because you undershot your mash temperature and need to adjust it upwards.

If you reliably hit your mash temperatures in a cooler, and are happy with doing step infusions with boiling water additions, then a cooler is fine for you.

If not, then you can use a converted keg.

This is a very reasonable last-thing-to-upgrade part of your system, particularly if you are satisfied with your cooler performance. You may not even change it if you like it enough.
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Offline meistersmudge

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Re: Need advice on new system
« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2010, 01:16:08 PM »
Thanks for the input. I think I am going to keep it simple and go with the cooler. I guess there's a robotics club in the area that has access to the tools that I need to convert the kegs. I might see if I can trade them some brew for access to their tools.

Offline bluesman

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Re: Need advice on new system
« Reply #6 on: August 29, 2010, 07:17:21 PM »
I really like the simplicity of the cooler mash tun.  I think it is the only way to go when first starting out as a homebrewer and it can be used as a stepping stone for some that want to eventually automate their process. 

I think everyone should utilize the cooler mash tun employing a batch process as a journeyman process of sorts in an effort to master the brewing process.  This effort will educate and allow for a more practical understanding of the brewing process.

RIMS and HERMS processes are more advanced methods of mashing that require automation and therefore more to maintain.  I am in the process of building a RIMS that will be fully automated.  This system will hopefully enable me to have better control of the mashing process allowing me to step mash and precisely control the mashing process as a whole.
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Offline Thirsty_Monk

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Re: Need advice on new system
« Reply #7 on: August 29, 2010, 08:07:22 PM »
I personally, do not see a big need to do RIMS or HERMS, other than they look very cool and have a lot of gadgets! 
Advantage of HERMS/RIMS system is repeatability and control in mash process.
They do not need to be fancy and they still can be using coolers.
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Offline weithman5

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Re: Need advice on new system
« Reply #8 on: August 29, 2010, 08:25:39 PM »
i like the big blue cooler myself.  if you are worried about adding a lot of boiling water to the grist during the mash as you change temps but don't want to go through a rims or other system, consider using a steam system ported off of a pressure cooker.  I have been thinking of this just for the cool sake, but i think it is not really necessary.
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